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Exploring The Mojave National Preserve In California – Be My Travel Muse


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Jolynn Colbert



Welcome to the beautiful Mojave National Preserve, a stunning desert wilderness located in southern California. Covering over 1.6 million acres, this vast landscape is a treasure trove of natural wonders, rich history, and breathtaking scenic beauty. From towering sand dunes to volcanic cinder cones, the Mojave National Preserve offers visitors a unique and immersive outdoor experience.


With its diverse ecosystems, including Joshua tree forests, rugged mountains, and expansive desert plains, the Mojave National Preserve is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re a hiker, camper, wildlife lover, or simply someone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, this preserve has something for everyone.


Named after the Mojave Desert, which dominates the region, the Mojave National Preserve is a protected area that aims to preserve the natural and cultural heritage of this unique desert ecosystem. As you explore the preserve, you’ll have the opportunity to witness firsthand the incredible adaptations of plants and animals that thrive in this harsh environment.


Aside from its natural beauty, the Mojave National Preserve also boasts a rich history. The area has been inhabited by Native Americans for thousands of years, and evidence of their presence can still be found in the form of rock art and archaeological sites. Furthermore, the preserve is home to remnants of old mining towns and numerous historic sites that offer visitors a glimpse into the past.


Whether you’re an avid adventurer seeking thrilling hikes, a nature lover hoping to spot wildlife, a landscape enthusiast looking to capture stunning photographs, or simply an individual in search of tranquility, the Mojave National Preserve has it all. With its varied terrain and endless opportunities for exploration, this desert gem is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to California.


So, pack your sunscreen, lace up your hiking boots, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through the remarkable Mojave National Preserve.


Getting to the Mojave National Preserve

Located in southern California, the Mojave National Preserve is easily accessible by car from major cities such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Phoenix. Here are a few options for getting to this stunning desert wilderness:

  1. By car: The most convenient way to reach the Mojave National Preserve is by car. From Los Angeles, take Interstate 15 north to Barstow, then drive east on Interstate 40. Exit at one of the various Mojave National Preserve exits, depending on the area you plan to explore. The preserve is also accessible from Las Vegas via Interstate 15 and from Phoenix via Interstate 40.
  2. By air: If you prefer to fly, the closest major airports to the Mojave National Preserve are Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas (LAS). From there, you can rent a car and drive to the preserve. Keep in mind that you may also need a vehicle to navigate within the preserve, so it’s recommended to rent a car if you’re flying in.
  3. By public transportation: While public transportation options to the Mojave National Preserve are limited, you can take an Amtrak or Greyhound bus to Barstow, which is the nearest major city to the preserve. From there, you can rent a car or arrange for a shuttle service to take you into the preserve.

Once you arrive at the Mojave National Preserve, be prepared to travel on unpaved roads in some areas. It’s important to have a high-clearance vehicle, especially if you plan to explore remote sections of the preserve. Additionally, make sure to have a map or GPS device, as well as plenty of water and provisions, as services and facilities within the preserve are limited.


It’s also worth noting that the extra caution should be taken when driving in the desert, as the climate can be extreme and the terrain challenging. Be sure to be mindful of speed limits, watch out for wildlife on the roads, and avoid driving during severe weather conditions.


Now that you know how to get there, it’s time to embark on your Mojave National Preserve adventure!


Things to Know Before You Go

Before setting off on your journey to the Mojave National Preserve, it’s essential to be well-prepared. Here are some important things to know before you go:

  1. Weather conditions: The Mojave Desert experiences extreme temperature variations, with scorching hot summers and chilly winters. During the summer months, temperatures can easily reach over 100°F (38°C), so it’s crucial to carry plenty of water, wear sun protection, and plan your outdoor activities during the cooler parts of the day. In winter, temperatures can drop to freezing at night, so pack appropriately for cold conditions.
  2. Water and supplies: The Mojave National Preserve is a remote area with limited facilities. It’s essential to carry an ample water supply, as well as food and any necessary camping or hiking gear. Make sure to stock up on supplies before entering the preserve, as there are few options for purchasing provisions within the park.
  3. Camping permits: If you plan to camp overnight in the Mojave National Preserve, you’ll need to obtain a camping permit. These permits can be obtained at the visitor centers or self-registration kiosks located throughout the preserve. There are various designated campgrounds and backcountry camping options available, each with its own regulations, so be sure to familiarize yourself with the rules before setting up camp.
  4. Leave no trace: As with any national park or preserve, it’s essential to practice Leave No Trace principles. Pack out all trash, dispose of waste properly, and respect the environment and wildlife. The Mojave National Preserve is home to many unique and delicate ecosystems, so it’s crucial to minimize your impact and help preserve the natural beauty for future visitors.
  5. Wildlife encounters: The Mojave Desert is teeming with wildlife, including bighorn sheep, coyotes, jackrabbits, and various reptiles. While encountering wildlife can be an incredible experience, it’s important to observe from a safe distance and never feed or approach them. Keep your food securely stored to avoid attracting animals to your campsite.

Lastly, it’s highly recommended to obtain a detailed map or guidebook before venturing into the Mojave National Preserve. Cell phone reception can be limited or nonexistent in many areas of the preserve, so having a reliable map or navigation system is crucial for safely navigating the desert terrain.


By being well-prepared and informed, you’ll be able to make the most of your Mojave National Preserve adventure and have a safe and enjoyable experience in this remarkable desert wilderness.


Camping Options

For those looking to immerse themselves in the beauty of the Mojave National Preserve, camping is an excellent option. With a range of campgrounds and backcountry camping opportunities, you can truly connect with the natural surroundings and experience the tranquility of the desert night skies. Here are some camping options to consider:

  1. Designated Campgrounds: The Mojave National Preserve offers several designated campgrounds that provide basic amenities such as toilets, picnic tables, and fire pits. Mid Hills Campground, Hole-in-the-Wall Campground, and Black Canyon Group Campground are popular choices. These campgrounds are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so be sure to arrive early to secure a spot.
  2. Backcountry Camping: For a more secluded and wilderness experience, backcountry camping is permitted throughout most of the preserve. You can choose your own campsite away from the designated campgrounds, as long as you follow the guidelines set by the park. Remember to leave no trace and camp at least 200 feet away from water sources to minimize your impact on the ecosystem.
  3. RV Camping: If you prefer to camp in your RV, there are options available in the Mojave National Preserve. Black Canyon Equestrian and Group Campground offers RV-friendly sites with space for trailers and motorhomes. However, it’s important to note that there are no hookups or dump stations within the preserve, so make sure to come prepared with enough water and supplies.

When camping in the Mojave National Preserve, it’s important to be self-sufficient and come prepared with all the necessary equipment and supplies. The desert can be unforgiving, so make sure to have enough water, food, and appropriate clothing for the varying temperatures. Additionally, familiarize yourself with the regulations and guidelines for camping in the preserve to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.


Whether you choose to unplug and disconnect in a designated campground or venture into the backcountry for a more remote experience, camping in the Mojave National Preserve allows you to fully appreciate the vastness and serenity of the desert landscape.


Hiking Trails

The Mojave National Preserve offers a variety of hiking trails that allow visitors to explore the diverse landscapes and discover hidden gems within the desert wilderness. Whether you’re a beginner hiker or an experienced trekker, there’s a trail for everyone. Here are some popular hiking trails in the preserve:

  1. Teutonia Peak Trail: This moderate 3-mile loop trail takes you to the top of Teutonia Peak, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding Mojave Desert. The trail showcases the area’s unique plants, including Joshua trees and Mojave yuccas.
  2. Hole-in-the-Wall Rings Trail: For a more adventurous hike, the 1.6-mile Rings Trail offers a thrilling experience through narrow rock formations and allows you to climb up and down using metal rings embedded in the rocks. The trail provides fantastic views of the Hole-in-the-Wall area.
  3. Rings Loop Trail: A longer and more challenging option, the 6.2-mile Rings Loop Trail combines the Rings Trail with the adjacent Barber Peak Loop. This trail rewards hikers with breathtaking views, fascinating geological formations, and a chance to spot wildlife such as bighorn sheep.
  4. Mojave Cross Trail: This 4-mile out-and-back trail leads to the iconic Mojave Cross, a memorial left by World War I veterans to honor fallen soldiers. Along the way, enjoy the serenity of the desert landscape and keep an eye out for desert wildlife.
  5. Clark Mountain Loop Trail: For experienced hikers seeking a challenge, the Clark Mountain Loop Trail is a strenuous 16-mile hike that takes you to the summit of Clark Mountain, the highest peak in the Mojave National Preserve. The trail offers breathtaking panoramic views and a chance to see unique flora and fauna.

As you embark on your hiking adventures in the Mojave National Preserve, it’s essential to be prepared. Carry plenty of water, wear appropriate clothing and sturdy footwear, and consider the weather conditions. Be mindful of your limitations and hike within your comfort level. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with trail maps and guidebooks before setting off or speak to park rangers for current trail conditions and recommendations.


Remember to practice Leave No Trace principles while hiking to minimize your impact on the environment. Stay on designated trails, pack out any trash, and respect the wildlife and delicate desert ecosystem.


Whether you’re seeking stunning vistas, unique geological formations, or a peaceful connection with nature, the hiking trails of the Mojave National Preserve offer endless opportunities for exploration and discovery.


Wildlife and Plant Life

The Mojave National Preserve is home to a remarkable variety of wildlife and plant life, adapted to thrive in the harsh desert environment. As you explore the preserve, keep your eyes peeled for these fascinating species:

  • Joshua Trees: Perhaps the most iconic plant of the Mojave Desert, the Joshua tree is a unique and unmistakable sight. These towering yuccas can be found throughout the preserve, their spiky branches reaching towards the sky.
  • Mojave Desert Tortoise: The Mojave Desert is also home to the threatened Mojave Desert tortoise. These gentle reptiles are adapted to the arid conditions, often hiding in burrows during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Bighorn Sheep: Look out for the elusive bighorn sheep as you explore the Mojave National Preserve. These impressive creatures have adapted to the rocky terrain, scaling cliffs and traversing challenging landscapes.
  • Desert Wildflowers: Depending on the time of year and rainfall, the Mojave Desert can burst into a vibrant display of wildflowers. From poppies to lupines, the desert comes alive with color during wildflower blooms.
  • Kangaroo Rats: These small, adorable rodents are nocturnal and rarely seen during the day. They have developed specialized adaptations to survive in the desert, including water conservation techniques.

As you observe these fascinating species, it’s important to remember to keep a respectful distance and avoid disturbing their natural behavior. Do not feed or approach wildlife, as this can be harmful to both animals and humans.


In addition to the wildlife, the plant life in the Mojave National Preserve is equally remarkable. From desert shrubs and cacti to rare species such as the Kelso Dunes milkvetch, the ecosystem showcases incredible adaptations to the arid conditions. Take a moment to appreciate the delicate beauty of these plants as you explore the preserve.


Remember that the preserve is a protected area, and it’s crucial to follow the park guidelines to minimize your impact on the wildlife and plant life. Practice Leave No Trace principles, stay on designated trails, and be mindful of the fragility of the desert ecosystem.


Whether you’re a nature lover or simply curious about the unique adaptations of desert flora and fauna, the Mojave National Preserve offers a wealth of opportunities to encounter and appreciate its incredible wildlife and plant life.


Scenic Drives

Exploring the Mojave National Preserve is not limited to hiking trails alone. The preserve offers several scenic drives that allow visitors to experience the vastness and beauty of the desert landscape from the comfort of their vehicles. Here are some scenic drives to consider:

  • Joshua Tree Forest Drive: This 20-mile loop takes you through a stunning Joshua tree forest, offering panoramic views of the unique desert ecosystem. The drive showcases the beauty of these iconic trees and provides opportunities for wildlife sightings.
  • Mojave Road: For a truly immersive desert experience, travel the historic Mojave Road. This 130-mile off-road route follows the path of the Native Americans and early pioneers, passing through rugged terrain, ancient lava fields, and remote wilderness.
  • Ring Road: The Ring Road is a 35-mile scenic drive that circles the spectacular Hole-in-the-Wall area. As you drive, you’ll be mesmerized by towering rock formations, volcanic remnants, and panoramic vistas. This drive also offers access to several hiking trails.
  • Kelso Dunes Road: Take a drive along Kelso Dunes Road to reach the towering and dynamic Kelso Dunes. This 9-mile stretch of road allows you to witness the mesmerizing beauty of the shifting sand dunes, which can reach heights of up to 600 feet.

As you embark on these scenic drives, be sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and snacks, as services and facilities are limited within the preserve. Take your time to soak in the stunning landscapes, stop at viewpoints along the way, and be on the lookout for wildlife sightings.


It’s important to note that certain roads within the preserve may be unpaved or require high-clearance vehicles. Before setting out on any drive, check with park rangers or visitor centers for current road conditions and any necessary permits or precautions.


By embarking on these scenic drives, you’ll have the opportunity to witness the raw beauty and vastness of the Mojave National Preserve, immersing yourself in the enchanting desert scenery.


Points of Interest

The Mojave National Preserve is filled with fascinating points of interest that showcase the unique landscapes and rich history of the area. From geological formations to cultural sites, here are some notable points of interest to explore:

  1. Hole-in-the-Wall: This dramatic geological formation is a must-see in the Mojave National Preserve. The towering volcanic rock walls create a natural corridor for hikers and offer unique opportunities for rock climbing and exploration.
  2. Teutonia Peak: Hiking to the summit of Teutonia Peak rewards visitors with breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding desert. Along the trail, keep an eye out for unique flora, including Joshua trees and Mojave yuccas.
  3. Kelso Depot Visitor Center: Housed in the beautifully restored Kelso Depot train station, this visitor center offers exhibits on the history, geology, and ecology of the Mojave Desert. It’s a great place to learn about the Mojave National Preserve before embarking on your adventures.
  4. Mitchell Caverns: Explore the underground world of the Mojave Desert at Mitchell Caverns. Join a guided tour to discover intricate limestone formations, learn about the caverns’ history, and witness the unique ecosystem that exists underground.
  5. Amboy Crater: This volcanic cinder cone is an impressive natural landmark in the preserve. Hike to the top of Amboy Crater to enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding desert and learn about the geological processes that formed the cone.

These points of interest offer a glimpse into the geological wonders and cultural heritage of the Mojave National Preserve. As you explore these sites, be respectful of the natural environment and follow any posted guidelines or regulations to ensure their preservation for future visitors.


It’s important to note that some points of interest may require permits or guided tours, so be sure to check with the visitor center or park rangers for any necessary arrangements before visiting.


Discovering these points of interest will not only deepen your understanding and appreciation of the Mojave National Preserve but also provide unforgettable experiences and memories of this awe-inspiring desert wilderness.


Nearby Attractions

While the Mojave National Preserve offers an abundance of natural beauty and attractions, there are also several nearby attractions worth exploring that complement your visit to the preserve. Here are some noteworthy attractions in the surrounding area:

  1. Death Valley National Park: Just east of the Mojave National Preserve lies Death Valley National Park, known for its surreal landscapes, stunning sand dunes, and Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America. Explore this diverse park and witness the otherworldly beauty of the desert.
  2. Joshua Tree National Park: Located west of the Mojave National Preserve, Joshua Tree National Park is renowned for its unique Joshua trees, stunning rock formations, and opportunities for rock climbing. Hike through the park’s rugged terrain and marvel at its desert wonders.
  3. Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Healing Center: Pay a visit to the quirky and historic Zzyzx Mineral Springs, located on the way to Baker from the Mojave National Preserve. This former health spa and mineral springs is a fascinating roadside stop with an interesting history.
  4. Baker: If you’re in need of supplies or a bite to eat, the town of Baker is located near the southern entrance of the Mojave National Preserve. Make a pit stop to refuel and sample the famous giant thermometer or enjoy a delicious pastry from one of the local bakeries.

These nearby attractions offer additional opportunities to explore the unique desert landscape of California and further immerse yourself in the beauty and wonders of the region. Whether you choose to visit during your trip to the Mojave National Preserve or as separate excursions, these attractions will enhance your overall desert experience.


As you explore these nearby attractions, be sure to plan accordingly, as they may have different rules and regulations compared to the Mojave National Preserve. Familiarize yourself with park guidelines, obtain any necessary permits, and be prepared for the specific conditions and challenges each location presents.


By incorporating nearby attractions into your itinerary, you’ll have the chance to explore a wider range of desert landscapes and make the most of your time in this captivating region of California.



The Mojave National Preserve is a hidden gem in southern California, offering visitors a unique and immersive experience in the desert wilderness. From expansive sand dunes to rugged mountains and iconic Joshua tree forests, this preserve is a haven for nature enthusiasts, history buffs, and adventurers alike.


As you explore the Mojave National Preserve, be prepared for the extremes of the desert climate and take the necessary precautions to ensure your safety and enjoyment. Carry plenty of water, plan your outdoor activities during cooler parts of the day, and come prepared with the right gear and supplies for camping, hiking, or scenic drives.


Immerse yourself in the rich history of the area by visiting cultural sites, such as the Kelso Depot or Mitchell Caverns, and take the time to appreciate the fascinating wildlife and plant life that thrive in this harsh environment.


From the thrilling hikes through unique geological formations to the serene drives that showcase the vastness of the desert landscape, the Mojave National Preserve offers endless opportunities for exploration and discovery. And with nearby attractions like Death Valley National Park and Joshua Tree National Park, you can truly make the most of your desert adventure.


So, whether you’re seeking solitude and tranquility or thrilling outdoor experiences, the Mojave National Preserve has something to offer. Lush with natural wonders, steeped in history and culture, this desert gem awaits your exploration. Pack your curiosity and embark on an unforgettable journey through the remarkable Mojave National Preserve.